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TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog


Defining Business Analytics – Recap of the May 17 DM Radio Show Featuring Spotfire’s Mark Lorion

2012 the year analytics means business1 Defining Business Analytics   Recap of the May 17 DM Radio Show Featuring Spotfires Mark LorionBig data analytics. Predictive analytics. Reporting. Text mining. Business intelligence. These terms circulate around our industry and fall under a blanket category called business analytics.

But with all of these terms comes confusion and a vague understanding of what fits where.

Well, Eric Kavanagh (@eric_kavanagh) and Jim Ericson (@jimericson) from Information Management try to figure out what fits where on their recent show on DM Radio. Titled “Save Money, Streamline Operations with Business Analytics,” the podcast centers on a single question: What does business analytics mean?

Also on the show are four experts, John Onder, a consultant with Chicago Business Intelligence Group; Jeff Kirk of Noetix; Scott Opitz of Altosoft; and Mark Lorion (@mark_lorion), VP of Marketing for TIBCO Spotfire, who discuss the question. The hosts give each person a few minutes to discuss his definition and the show concludes with a roundtable on how to get started with business analytics.

Here are the highlights of the show:

Kavanagh and Ericson introduce the show with some common definitions of business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA). BI equals traditional reporting and BA means more real-time questioning of the data to improve the top and bottom lines and to mitigate errors.

With BA it’s, “Why do we do that?” and “Where is it going?” BI is more, “What happened after the fact?”

BA – More Predictive and Easier to Implement

Kavanagh and Ericson begin the show with a discussion of the value of BA by looking at the state of business today. Kavanagh says profit margins are being trimmed and with a new breed of cloud-based firms, companies can often rent services or outsource them to save money in addition to “improving the top line and mitigating errors.”

Onder starts off the expert conversation by saying BA is no longer about churning numbers. He says it’s more about how we can make decisions better, faster and with more forward thinking.

The consensus of this segment is that you can now answer the question of “Why?” more readily with BA. Onder says you have to think about what these metrics are and then you have to tie metrics to business processes. You’re trying to make these processes more routine and efficient.

The other two experts also express their opinions. You can hear the recap in the full audio.

Helping People Ask Questions Not Yet Asked

The fourth segment features Lorion who offers the following synopsis of BA. He says it needs to include a “discovery component” that helps to automate more “known things.” He says you should ask: “What should we care about?” and “What do we care about?” as well as “How do we help people ask the questions they [data answer seekers] haven’t asked?”

He says that one way to develop these questions is to look for surprises when you’re reviewing a project or process.

“If you measure it, you’ll change it. What’s hiding in your data that you haven’t measured?” Lorion asks. For example, he says it’s often hard for a business user to find the right answers in spreadsheets or other tools when the presentation is hiding what he’s trying to see.

He says the solution is in the experience. “If the experience feels more like a video game, where people can surf through the data, there are increasingly powerful methods of automating it [the discovery process].”

Three Keys to Successful BA

Lorion says that organizations should focus on three areas when evaluating BA solutions – the user, answering questions without heavy IT action, and speed.

He says, “We’ve pushed [our product] development down this path – collaboration. Collaboration has to be about asking questions, getting answers and making decisions.”

This approach is mirrored throughout the rest of the podcast. Lorion says the need for BA originates in a line of business and it belongs there. He says that it need not be a long, arduous process to get started on a project, either.

The experts all agree that it’s best to start with an analytics pilot program. You should consider implementing a business analysis center of excellence where analytics experts join the members of a line of business team to tackle a problem and find a resolution through BA.

He says that this helps companies speed up the data processes and gets the discovery process started.

After all, you never know what’s hiding in your data until you look.

Next Steps:

  • Listen to the full podcast and check out our complimentary “5-Minute Guide to Business Analytics” to learn how user-driven “analytic” or “data discovery” technologies help business and technology users more quickly uncover insights and speed action.
  • See how Spotfire version 4.5 empowers users to discover actionable insights hidden in big data and unstructured information in our on-demand webcast, “What’s New with Spotfire 4.5.”

Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team


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